One Man; Two Settings
Joe Haege has had quite the busy year with two albums dropping simultaneously – his band 31 Knots’ Trump Harm and his solo project Vin Blanc’s Chroma Key. Although not a usual practice, one can say double releases provide enough critical buffer in the case one album decides not to perform so well. But…is this the case?
Trump Harm jumps right into dry, mathy drums with “Onanist’s Vacation,” jumping everywhere as Haege strums with proggy misdirection. His vocals, on the other hand, resemble a sort of Britpop playfulness only the Gallagher brothers could love.
“Candles on Open Water Knots” continues with similar drumming, albeit with a more controlled guitar section. The palm muting, coupled with Haege’s desperate crooning, makes this song resemble a subtle hybrid of Dirty Projectors and Muse.
Jumping to Chroma Key, the listener will immediately realize the textural differences. The string swells of “Tiger Stripe Wishlist” harken back to Brian Eno’s late 70s releases while “Isn’t it a Pity” is an electronic mess pulled together by necessary reverb. Now, the real difference between the two albums is simply wet and dry. Trump Harm being somewhat sharp and protruding, while Haege uses Chroma Key to spread his ideas like butter.
Tracks like “Magnet Dance” and “The Safest Place to Be” feature Haege’s keen ear on off-times and changes, but now enforced by something not achieved by a simple guitar/bass/drum outfit: uneasiness.
The somewhat “fake” drums and heavily-altered textures make the listener wonder whether to appreciate what they’re hearing for tongue-in-cheek purposes or sincere attempts at blip-bloopy mayhem. Haege, for some reason, has achieved the latter.